Bartash Printing — From the Ground Up
FROM NEWSPAPER publisher to newspaper printer, Bartash Printing has been around the block. And, considering its location—Philadelphia—that block is pretty historic.
Philadelphia is the home of America’s first and foremost printer: Ben Franklin. And, like Franklin, who started out with very little, local printer Joe Bartash started out small before hitting it big.
Bartash Printing, one of the largest cold web printing companies in the Philadelphia region, was started 55 years ago by Bartash to print his weekly newspaper, the Southwest Globe Times. In 1962, Joe’s son-in-law, Sidney Simon, joined the company. During the next 45 years, Simon and his son, Michael, built the business from a single-press operation, located in a 10,000-square-foot rowhome, to a five press-line operation in a 100,000-square-foot facility.
When the business relocated in 1994, Bartash employed 60 people. Today, it has nearly 300 workers and has clientele stretching from Massachusetts to Alabama.
A company milestone occurred in the 1970s, when Bartash sold the newspaper, foregoing the publishing operation, and sold the printing operation to his son-in-law.
“My dad stuck with the printing company,” says Michael Simon, president. “He bet on the right horse.”
The 1994 move was another milestone in the company’s history, since it was the real starting point for business growth. At the time, Bartash offered no postpress services, and its prepress department consisted of a computer and image-setter. The backbone of the operation was the press department, which ran a seven-unit Goss Community web press and a five-unit Goss Suburban web.
Bursting at the Seams
“The building was huge; we didn’t think we would be able to fill it,” claims Simon. “Now, we are bursting at the seams. We are masters of fitting things into small spaces.”
Today, Bartash has an arsenal of printing and bindery equipment. Over the years, the company built its printing capabilities from the ground up to provide a wide range of printing services, which include inserts, tabloid newspapers, mini-tab booklets, coupon books, detach cards, postcards and coated covers. The postpress operation provides various bindery services, including saddlestitching, ink-jet labeling and chop cutting. The printer also provides a full line of inserting and mailing services that handles more than 10 million inserts per week and labels more than three million pieces per week.
“We recently installed a new eight-color Didde web press, so we can now offer printing on inserts and detach labeling cards in-house,” explains Simon. “We also added four new units to our two main presses to increase our level of quality, and we have converted one press line to all automatic inking. Having all four-high towers gives us a greater capacity to do four-color work and, as importantly, provides better registration. All five of our presses are capable of excellent four-color reproduction for both tabloids and compact (mini-tab) books.
“Our prepress department is completely state-of-the-art,” Simon adds. “The majority of the publications we receive are either on disk or sent directly to our FTP site. We have two Creo (Kodak) Trendsetters and multiple workstations for both Mac and PC formats. We routinely send our prepress technicians to work with our customers to help achieve better color reproduction, better halftones and easy conversion to PDF formats. In some cases, we even placed equipment or upgraded existing equipment to help facilitate our conversion or increase their capabilities.”
Tabloids, Books, Inserts
Bartash has five press lines. All press lines are capable of in-line gluing and trimming. Besides tabloids and books, Bartash offers other specialty products such as slip-sheet inserts and tab-outs.
“We currently have five inserting lines, two stitcher/trimmers for multi-section jobs or jobs with coated covers, and five ink-jet labeling machines,” Simon notes. “The U.S. Post Office maintains an office at Bartash for in-plant verification. All mail is pre-verified before it leaves our dock. UPS ground and two-day air are also services provided. Bartash is a one-stop shop for all printing needs.”
From its humble “mom and pop” startup to its present-day status as one of Philly’s biggest printers, Bartash has experienced continous growth. Simon confides that the company’s annual sales have increased from about $5 million in 1994 to $43 million in 2006.
“A lot of our growth has been organic. We’d get a customer who wants to mail and insert, so we’d outsource parts of the job and eventually work to bring it in-house, increasing our capabilities.”
As Bartash increased its capabilities, especially in recent years, it has spent a lot of time helping customers upgrade their workflows.
“We showed them how to create files electronically. For some bigger clients, we provided servers and computers, and taught them how to use the equipment. We knew it would be of benefit to both of us,” says Simon. “It creates a nice connection with our customers; our mission is to be partners with them.”
Many of Bartash’s accounts are in the New York metro area, but it has clients all over the country. The company also covers an area from Boston to Virginia with its own delivery fleet, providing shipment service as far as Albany, NY, on a weekly basis.
The Joy of Growing Pains
“Our customers expect quick turnaround, low prices and good quality,” says Simon, emphasizing that’s why Bartash’s business is booming. “We have experienced a lot of growing pains, but we see about 10 percent growth per year.”
Bartash builds its client base by focusing on a three-prong marketing strategy, which includes promotional material, literature “scouts” and a recently revamped Website. But, the apex of its business strategy is the company’s commitment to customer service. It’s that superior service that keeps clients coming back, Simon explains, citing one example.
“A while back, we lost a job to our competition. Now, they’re coming back to us because, as the customer pointed out, we always responded to any problem and found an immediate solution. It’s all about how you relate to your customers.”
Relating to customers is essential to business success—especially those who buy and read printed material, like newspapers.
Ben Franklin, the founding father of newspaper printing, understood the power of the press (both man and machine). Capitalizing on his business relationships, he transformed his small print operation into a commercial industry.
While Joe Bartash and Sidney and Michael Simon are no Ben Franklins, their personal experiences, business successes and love of printing seem to mirror Franklin’s. The trio of printers worked hard at their beloved craft and transformed their once tiny shop into a highly successful printing operation. PI